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Border arson rocks House

Uriamghat/Guwahati, Aug. 13: Violence along the Assam-Nagaland boundary rocked the Assam Assembly today with Opposition members demanding strong action to defuse the situation, which has aggravated following exodus of villagers from border villages to relief camps at Uriamghat through the day.

Alleged miscreants from Nagaland had yesterday fired upon villagers in Assam and also set many houses on fire in the Uriamghat area under Dhansiri subdivision of Golaghat district.

Cabinet minister Rakibul Hussain told the Assembly that four persons had sustained injuries in yesterday’s incident, of whom one Fosoi Gaur died on the way to hospital.

Though the official death toll remained one, unofficial sources said three persons had been killed. Villagers said one Chintamoni Barhoi, 65, was also killed in the firing. A charred body was recovered from arson-affected Chainpur village today. The body is suspected to be that of the village headman Africa Toppo.

Apart from Chainpur, four other villages, Chetia Gaon, Ratanpur, Ramanbasti and Kemphur, were also affected by arson.

Chief minister Tarun Gogoi called up Union home minister Rajnath Singh and sought additional central paramilitary forces to contain the situation.

As the day’s proceedings started, AGP MLAs Keshab Mahanta and Phani Bhusan Choudhury raised the matter in the House and were joined by members of other Opposition parties.

The MLAs alleged failure on part of the government to protect citizens living along the inter-state boundary from attacks by miscreants from Nagaland and demanded a detailed discussion on the incident. They also demanded that an all-party Assembly delegation, led by Speaker Pranab Gogoi, should visit the affected areas.

BJP legislator Ranjit Das protested by holding a placard outside the Assembly. Some Congress MLAs also expressed concern over the incident and sought appropriate action from Dispur.

Considering the Opposition demand, the Speaker announced that an Assembly delegation led by him would visit the affected areas and allowed a thorough discussion on the issue during zero hour.

Stating the state government’s position during the discussion, Hussain said the government would accept the decision taken by the House.

Replying on behalf of the home department, he said, “Three quick reaction teams and an additional company of police have been sent to the affected area to control the situation and senior police officers are camping in the area. Parliamentary secretary (home) Atuwa Munda and home commissioner G.D. Tripathi have also rushed to the spot to assess the situation.”

Sources said the officer-in-charge of Uriamghat police station, Giridhar Bora, and his three personal security officers, who had gone patrolling around 4am today, were reported missing. “They are suspected to be detained by Naga miscreants and efforts are on to trace them,” a source said.

Hussain said the government has set up eight relief camps. Over 6,000 people, who fled their houses, have taken shelter in the relief camps (See Metro).

“The state government is committed to protect the territorial integrity of the state and will not compromise on it at any cost,” he said.

KMSS leader Akhil Gogoi visited the area and sat on an indefinite hunger strike in front of Uriamghat police station, demanding deployment of sufficient force.

The All Assam Tribal Sangha demanded the Centre’s intervention to bring the situation under control and also sought a CBI inquiry. It described the incident as a “planned attack” with direct involvement of the NSCN (Isak-Muivah).

All Bodo Students’ Union leader Pramod Boro demanded deployment of the army in the affected area. He said the chief ministers of Assam and Nagaland and representatives of the Centre should sit together to solve the problem.

Gogoi asked chief secretary Jitesh Khosla to take up the matter with his Nagaland counterpart and explore all possible ways to defuse the tension.

Home commissioner and secretary G.D. Tripathi described the situation as “tense but under control”.

Bodo Sahitya Sabha condemned the alleged failure of the state home department in protecting the people. “Failure of the Assam government in sending adequate security forces indicates how it has surrendered to the Naga militants,” said Kamalakanta Muchahary, general secretary of the Sabha.

In New Delhi, three BJP MPs from Assam today wrote to Union home minister Rajnath Singh alleging that violence on the Nagaland-Assam border was “aided and abetted” by the Nagaland administration.

In their letter to Singh, the three MPs, Ram Prasad Sarma (Tezpur), Rameswar Teli (Dibrugarh) and Kamakhya Prasad Tasa (Jorhat), said,

“We are pained to inform you about the ongoing violence from the side of Nagaland, aided and abetted by Nagaland administration on the people of Assam-Nagaland border.”

The MPs said people from Nagaland had evacuated many areas of Assam and every day hundreds of people on the Assam side were forced to flee their home and hearth fearing for their lives. “The matter is extremely serious and immediate intervention from your end is solicited,” the MPs wrote.

Union minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju said in a written reply in Rajya Sabha that there were issues relating to demarcation of boundaries between Assam-Nagaland, Assam-Arunachal Pradesh, Assam-Meghalaya and Assam-Mizoram.

He said the Centre’s approach has consistently been that inter-state boundary disputes can be resolved only with the willing cooperation of the state governments and that the Centre works only as a facilitator for amicable settlement of the dispute in a spirit of mutual accommodation and understanding.